Howdy folks ! This is the last post on bopping duets. As surely you did notice it, my English is far from fluent ; actually I don’t dream neither think « in English », because it is not my natural language. I really hope you can understand it, and excuse me for writing such intricate phrases yet very common. But I LOVE this bopping music, and let’s keep it first ! My aim is to figure the music posted with record labels and odds and ends on the artists.
The McCORMICK BROTHERS were a Tennessee/Kentucky family affair. Lloyd and Kelly held the guitars, younger Haskel was on banjo, Hayden Clark on bass and Charlie Nixon on dobro. They cut for Hickory in Nashville between 1954 and 58 a fine line of Bluegrass and Rockabilly boppers, among them this « Big eyes » (1958, Hickory 1080). Strong strumming boogie electric guitar and vocals in unison. They even had a full album, « Songs for home folks » on Hickory 102 (1961) and still are playing today.
Chester and Lester, the BUCHANAN BROTHERS were another duet group. They hit big in August 1946 with the pioneering « Atomic power » on RCA, and revived a similar theme in November 1947 with « (When you see) Those flying saucers ». (RCA-Victor 20-2385) « You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers, it may be the coming of the Judgement Day ». Good vocal and guitar duet. The song was used in 2009 in the animated release of « Monsters VS. Aliens ».
PAL (or Palford) BRADY (1922-1988) was a native of Tennessee ; himself relocated too in Michigan, where he had records on Lucky 013 (Cincinnati), Clix (Troy, MI), Bragg, among others (late ’50s to mid-60s). His « More lovin ‘ » (Conteste 45-2) from 1961 has two voices for a good « city hillbilly bopper ».
Charlie & Wallace, the MERCER BROTHERS came from Metter, GA and began a professional career during the late ’30s. After the WWII they had their own radio show on WMAZ before joining in 1948 the prestigious « Louisiana Hayride ». From 1951 to 1954 they cut a dozen sides for Columbia in Dallas, with their Blue Ridge Boys (Clyde Baum on mandolin and Doyle Strickland (fiddle) + Wayne Raney (harmonica). I chose from their equally constant in quality output « No place to hang my hat » (Columbia 20927, 1952-53), very Delmore Brothers styled. After 1954 they settled in Macon, GA, and WIBB radio station before completely disappear.
JOHNNIE (Wright) and JACK (Anglin) were regulars on the ’50s charts, before Anglin was killed in a car crash in 1963. Their «Oh boy ! I love her » (RCA 47-6932) from ’57 is an enjoyable jumping little opus. Earlier on they had cut the C&W classic « Ashes of love » (revived during the ’80s by the Desert Rose Band), and « Cryin’ heart blues » in 1951, supposed to have been recorded (but lost) by Elvis Presley on Sun Records.
“Oh boy, I love her”
On the Kentucky Dixiana label # 105 from 1954, CLIFF GROSS offer a sort of fast talking blues (with the band chanting in unison) with « Hog pen hop », probably recorded in Dallas. Gross was a mountain type fiddler, and Dixiana emanated from Bowling Green, Wayne County.
PAUL & ROY, The Tennessee River Boys, already discussed in another « Duet » feature (they had a two-sider on Nashville Pace label), have recorded for Mercury in 1953 « Spring of love » (# 6374) : it’s a fast Bluegrass influenced ditty – lead vocal & backing vocal.
Next track GOLDEN STATE BOYS‘« Always dreaming » was already posted here in April 2013. But I like very much this tune with its urgent vocal, the dobro part of Leon Poindexter, the vocal/mandolin of Herb Rice, and the energetic banjo of Don Parmley [personnel given by a visitor]. Date : early to mid-62, Shamrock 717, Artesia, California.
A solid rocker (with drums), « Good gosh gal » on the Nashville Briar label # 111 by PHIL BEASLEY & CHARLIE BROWN. Nice guitar and steel solo, 1961.
It’s useless to present the YORK BROTHERS (their story is on this site). Here is one of their rarest issues on their own York Bros. Records # 600Y-100, from 1963, and the great « Monday morning blues ».
We are going to the end with FRANKIE SHORT & DEE GUNTER on the Balto, MD Wango label (# 201) : again a solid version of Don Reno‘s « Country boy rock’n’roll » . Remember L.C. Smith and « Radio boogie » (2nd version) on this label.
Go to a map of the U.S., search « Biloxi », and you’ll find this small city in the Harrison county, down south of Mississipi. That’s where the Fine label story begins. But before that and its debuts, we must look at its founders. Professor Marion Carpenter had a recording studio open to local facilities in Biloxi and was associated with steel guitar player Murphy Monroe « Pee Wee » Maddux (born 1923)[The visitor Linda Maddux corrected this: “He played the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and harmonica, not steel guitar”]. The latter’s name had over the years several changes : from « Pee Wee » to « Pee-Wee », even « PeWee ». He was also a songwriter (Kitty Wells in 1956 ; or « Fools like me » for Jerry Lee Lewis, or more « Rocky road of love » for Curtis Gordon, even Fats Domino : « What a price »), and his earliest efforts as recording artist (at least he is credited as such on the labels) are to be found in March 1952 on M-G-M records, cut in Nashville : « My hobo heart » and « Lover’s crime ». The vocals were done by a certain Al Britt for two average boppers. Maddux penned a good percentage of the songs on Fine, among them the Ernie Chaffin ones.
In 1954 the pair Carpenter/Maddux launched a microscopic label, Gulf Coast, which they issued a certain DAN SEAL on : « You gotta walk that line » (# 1012) is a lively little opus, but nothing particular, and it sinked into obscurity. But SEAL reemerged next year on the new comperes’ label, FINE for two ballads, « I wake at dawn (with you on my mind ) » being the best one (# 1003).
JIM OWEN then came with the rollicking « Sie Simon shuffle » (# 1004) : it’s a jumping hillbilly rocker with a fiddle solo and one from Pee Wee Maddux on steel well to the fore. Owen had late ’50s his own Owe Man label where he issued « The key’s in the mail box » (see below). On to JOHNNY BOZEMAN and the good « She’s my bayou babe » (# 1006). Bozeman went afterwards in 1957 on Mobile, Alabama, Sandy label, which he co-founded with Paul Bose, and saw a classic horror rocker « Rockin’ in the graveyard » by Jackie Morningstar in 1959. Bozeman himself had « Blues and I » (# Sandy 1001)(alas, unheard) and what is described in a sale list as « doo wop rockabilly », « How many ».
Other artists on the Fine label included ANN RAYE and his fine (co-sung with Jim Owen) bopper « Our wedding band » (# 1001). Raye had also had earlier 2 singles on Starday and 1 on Decca in 1956. Incidentally she was the daughter of local promoter Frank « Yankie » Barhanovich, and through her father’s activities, went on to share in 1955 some Elvis Presley shows in Biloxi. Moreover on Fine, HANNA FAYE had the ballad « It pays to be true » (# 1008). Other men : J. W. THOMPSON and the good honky-tonker « It’s your turn » (# 1007) – later he cut « When you’re honky tonkin’ » on the Toledo label (# 1003) out of Alexandria, Louisiana. Or B. F. JOHNSON : the fine bopper « I wish I could believe you » (# 1011)(great mandolin!).
Ernie Harvey on steel guitar (according to Linda Maddux)
The most important artist however was ERNIE CHAFFIN who made his recording beginnings on Fine with « The stop look and listen song »b/w « The heart of me » (1010), before Carpenter and Maddux went with him to Nashville to meet country promoter Jim Denny and A&R man Paul Cohen. A deal with Decca never concluded but Fred Rose took Chaffin on his burgeoning Hickory label. 4 sides were issued without success, then Chaffin came to Sun, and Maddux backed him on such a classic as « Feelin’ low » (Sun 262).
Ernie Chaffin’s two Hickory records come from a single session on May 5, 1954 and all the songs were written by Chaffin’s longtime buddy Pee Wee Maddux. Chaffin’s defining moment came with « Feelin’ Low » on Sun in 1956, and the Hickory singles are rather mundane in comparison, although there’s no disguising the quality in his voice.(more…)
Douglas James « Doug » Kershaw was born on January 24 of 1936 on a houseboat near Tiel Ridge, Louisiana – a tiny island off the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Russell Lee « Rusty » Kershaw was born on 2 February 1938. Their childhood was difficult, and their father committed suicide when Doug was seven, soon after the family moved to Crowley. Their older brother Nelson « Pee Wee » Kershaw formed a band called the Continental Playboys, which the younger boys would later join. Rusty played rhythm guitar, while Doug began to excel on fiddle (he eventually claimed to have mastered 29 instruments). The band became popular and was appearing on KLPC-TV in 1953, alongside Jimmy Newman and Wiley Barkdull.(more…)
The musical career of singer / pianist Wiley Barkdull is virtually inseparable from that of the brothers Rusty and Doug Kershaw.
Barkdull’s main instrument was the piano, but he may have played rhythm guitar as well, possibly at his live performances. A deep voiced Lefty Frizzell soundalike, he performed over Crowley’s KSIG alongside Jimmy Newman, Jim Toth and the Kershaws. Rusty, Doug and Wiley all started recording for legendary Crowley producer Jay (or J.D., if you prefer) Miller’s Feature label in 1953 or 1954. Very few of these recordings were issued at the time, but most of them (plus some KSIG radio transcriptions) finally appeared on the UK Flyright label in 1991. Barkdull’s record for Feature was “I’ll Give My Heart to You” (soon to be rerecorded for Hickory)/”Living a Life of Memories” (Feature 2006), which appeared in early 1955. It was the last release on the label, crediting the backing to Rusty & Doug and the Music Makers.
After Feature was wound down, Rusty and Doug were signed by Hickory Records in Nashville and Barkdull was also signed as an artist in his own right. Wiley’s deep bass voice contributes to many of Rusty and Doug’s recordings and so much so that his name was credited on almost all of the Rusty & Doug sides on which he appeared as a vocalist. In some cases, these harmonies are downright spectacular (“Kaw-Liga“, for instance). These fine Hickory recordings benefited in no small measure from a first-class accompaniment by the Nashville A-team, sometimes enhanced by the fiddle of Rufus Thibodeaux.
Barkdull’s solo recordings for Hickory (8 singles altogether) are a mixture of country in the Lefty Frizzell style, western swing and rockabilly. Songs in the latter category include the great two-sider “Hey Honey“/”I Ain’t Gonna Waste My Time” (Hickory 1074) and “Too Many“, which was covered by Ocie Smith (whose version got a UK release on London, while the original went unissued in the UK). “Too Many” (written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant) was my first Barkdull experience, in the mid-80s [via the U.K. Magnum Force album « Hillbilly Rock – 20 Rare Tracks From The Hickory Vaults »].
It features a great guitar groove by Hank Garland and Ray Edenton, fine percussive sounds by Buddy Harman and Lightnin’ Chance (on bass) and a piano solo by Floyd Cramer. Most of Wiley’s Hickory material was written by J.D. Miller, with just one Barkdull co-writer’s credit. Rusty and Doug scored five country hits between 1955 and 1961, but for Barkdull’s solo recordings there was no chart success, in spite of their quality. His final Hickory release was a nice up-tempo treatment of Melvin Endsley‘s “Keep A-Lovin’ Me Baby“. After this last Hickory session Barkdull moved to Houston, and started to record for the All Star label in 1961, gaining seven releases by the time the label closed in 1964. The last anyone heard of him was that he was residing in Nederland, Texas, still playing the beer joints.
– Rusty and Doug Kershaw with Wiley Barkdull, Louisiana Men: The Complete Hickory Recordings. Ace CDCH2 992 (2 CD-set, 56 tracks). Released June 2004. Informative liner notes by Dave Sax.
– Rusty & Doug with Wiley Barkdull, The Legendary Jay Miller Sessions. Flyright FLY CD 35. Issued in 1991. 21 tracks.